Thursday, February 05, 2009

Film Review: Gran Torino

.:Film Review: Gran Torino:.


Who knew grumpy old men can be so bad-@$$?

The spirit of Dirty Harry lives on in this film as Clint Eastwood stars as Walt Kowalski, a Pollock war veteran just trying to live out the last of his days in peace when he discovers that there's a lot more to life than he ever considered.

The film begins with the death of Walt's life, and he clearly bristles at the shallow sermon by the priest, who attempts to bond with Walt and force him to go to confession, in fulfillment of his promise to Walt's late wife. Old, jaded, and surly, Walt doesn't take too kindly to this, and the seeming dominance of immigrants in his neighborhood.

Despite his tough, hardened exterior, over time, he develops a bond with his Hmong neighbors, particularly Su Val and Thao, the latter the person who attempted to steal Walt's treasured possession, a vintage Ford Gran Torino. This in turn leads to tension with a Hmong gang, headed by Su Val's and Thao's cousin, who wanted Thao to join his gang.

The resolution of this conflict is precisely what makes this film genius. It's not a happy ending, by any means. But it's a coming of age for a man, 78 years of age, coming to terms with the fact that despite his long life, though he knew so much about death, he knew so little about life, and only when he has learned enough about it, did he put his affairs into order and sacrifice himself to rid his newfound friends of the horrors of the gang.

The film manages to make you laugh, then wrench at you when it gets to the end. Stark imagery, from Su Val's battered visage as she returned after being abducted, to the lighter in Walt's hand as he lay dead from automatic gunfire at the hands of the gang, and the Hmong's breaking of their cultural code of silence when they witnessed this crime all stood out as very powerful images that betray the sheer heart in the movie. The film's plot was stellar, and in spite of all the racial slurs hurled left and right, showed that deep down, there is so much good to be found in people, the kind of good that is represented by the Gran Torino: something that isn't for the taking but is given to the deserving, much to the chagrin of Walt's granddaughter, who was expecting to inherit the car.

“Gran Torino” is a heavily character-driven story. Character development is arguably its strongest point, as both Walt and the Hmongs slowly evolve from being antagonistic of each other to being closer than Walt is to his immediate family. Racial tensions were played both ways to underscore that in the end, the relationship between them was far more important than whatever stereotypes they may have of each other in turn.

Unlike most of the other movies I heartily recommend, this is a movie that could very well help you find the deeper meaning of life. I strongly urge you to give this film a shot. You won't regret it.

Fun Evaluation: A-
Critical Evaluation: A+

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